Freeview HD Set-top Boxes: Best Buys
The pick of the crop
Group Test If there’s one thing that’s clear from this Freeview HD set-top box group test, it’s that there’s no single box that’s right for everyone.
Here are the seven set-tops Reg Hardware brought together for this round-up:
- Bush DVB680
- Goodmans GDB300HD
- Humax HD-FOX T2
- i-Can Easy HD
- Icecrypt T2200
- Philips DTR5520
- Sharp TU-T2
Two stand out, however: the Humax HD-FOX T2 and the i-Can Easy HD 2851T. The former has a good range of network functions, and a promised upgrade to provide USB recording and Sky Player, while the latter has the card slot necessary for ESPN and, should it launch, Sky Sports, together with BBC iPlayer right now.
Of the two, the i-Can comes out on top, and so it gets an Editor's Choice award. The Humax gets a Recommended commendation.
Winner: the i-Can Easy HD 2851T
If your interest is more in HD films and drama than multimedia extras, however, then the Philips DTR5520, with its ability to output Dolby Digital may suit you better or – despite its other failings – the Bush, if you need Dolby via an optical connection.
Or, perhaps, you’ll prefer to wait until there really is one Freeview HD box that does everything. ®
But what of picture quality? How sharp was the image? How well did the box handle the compression? Movment? Any artifacts noticeable whilst watching?
I know you guys aren't What Hi-fi so I wouldn't expect you to go on about how good the blacks where or anything like that. But something about the main reason you're plumping for HD wouldn't go amiss.
Or am I to presume the picture looks the same whichever you choose and its pretty much down to which box you like and what features it has?
I had my fingers burned with the Humax PVR 9200 Freeview receiver, it's extremely buggy.
I've lost all my recorded programmers for a 3rd time this year. I could go on about the bugs for ages. It can take often as a minute or two to respond to the remote control, I have no idea what the thing is doing during this time. It does respond eventually, which means it has buffered the key press message somewhere.
I'm really reluctant to buy Humax again. But you can't really be sure about what bugs are present until you've been using it for months. Some bugs take ages to show up.
Can you review the 3view one when it comes out?
While it's about double the price (300quid), looks pretty good.
Dual tuner, 500gb hard drive, dnla, internet, youtube, iplayer to come.
Course, at that price, knowing it it's worth it's important, so a review please? 27th may is the release date.
I didn't know about the HE-AAC thing that the Freeview group have settled on. Jeez its bad enough that they chose the DVB-T2 system over those HD formats in Europe that doesn't require new hardware, now it seems they've gone and pandered to industry again by choosing a wholely unsupported audio system, and relying on built in transcoding - at cost to the consumer. How convenient for them.
I have recently been exposed to the wonderous delights of 5.1 surround via my new AV Receiver. Its not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but my ears can't tell any real significant difference. Suffice it to say, the immersive experience, as I'm sure you know, is very much more enhanced by it when watching Blu-Rays.
So why then did you only recommend and award those boxes which didn't have Dolby Digital transcoding!? Do they still support AV Receiver 5.1 support via some other means?
How confident can we be about updates?
Is this a division of the home electronics market where after-sales software upgrades really can be expected? That's been a variable experience with Freeview SD equipment. Updates don't a!ever happen, or they break the boxes, or they give you a reportedly awful ITV advertising-sponsored EPG instead of the manufacturer's edition of EPG. So for instance I own a Daewoo VHS recorder that no longer receives Freeview because of something called "Split NIT". And as for recording onto USB devices, some of your manufacturers say, "uh, maybe". It would be most sensible to assume "never". Of course, this isn't the review that covers PVRs.
Other "features" that I'm interested in are crashability - I think every Freeview SD box I've owned has been liable to crash in an individual annoying way, which only shows up in long term use - and "radio" reception and recording, although that probably doesn't go above stereo most of the time.